Timeline: How the Church has responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic

One year ago, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended Church gatherings worldwide on March 12, 2020, in response to growing restrictions related to COVID-19.

Two weeks later, on March 25, the First Presidency announced all temples would close. These were two of many actions taken by Church leaders to help prevent the spread of the virus as the global pandemic unfolded.

In a September Church News article, President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring said Church leaders saw what needed to be done and responded with “unprecedented action” — suspending meetingsclosing temples and directing the return of thousands of missionaries to their home countries.

Then, as circumstances allowed and opportunities arose, they also found ways for members to safely gather, for temple work to be performed and for missionaries to safely share the gospel message.

First Presidency: Amid fear, isolation and sorrow of COVID-19 — the answer to conflict is faith

This timeline shows how the Church has responded and adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, guided by the Lord through living Prophets and Apostles.

December 2019

Dec. 31 — Wuhan Municipal Health Authorities report a string of pneumonia-like cases to World Health Organization (WHO)

January 2020

Jan. 29 — President Russell M. Nelson reaches out to China, sends protective equipment

Jan. 30 — WHO issues Global Health Emergency; death toll reaches 200, with 9,800 confirmed cases

February

Feb. 4 — Church transfers missionaries out of the China Hong Kong Mission

Feb. 21 — Church releases information about missionary work, temple work and worship services for members and missionaries in several Asian countries; Taiwan Taipei Temple and Seoul Korea Temple first to close

Missionaries of the China Hong Kong Mission gather at the airport as they prepare to depart as part of the mission's February 2020 evacuation plan due to growing coronavirus concerns, as shown in a photo courtesy of President Dennis L. Phillips. The photo is one he included as a submission to the Church History Department's project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide.
Missionaries of the China Hong Kong Mission gather at the airport as they prepare to depart as part of the mission’s February 2020 evacuation plan due to growing coronavirus concerns, as shown in a photo courtesy of President Dennis L. Phillips. The photo is one he included as a submission to the Church History Department’s project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Feb. 27  — First Presidency discourages leaders, members from international travels to April general conference; Church statement reports 14 missions across 17 countries undergoing changes; Fukuoka Japan Temple and Sapporo Japan Temple to close

March

March 5 — Rome Italy Temple first in Europe to close following Italian government directives to close large gathering places; total of 17 countries cancelling or limiting Sunday worship services in affected areas

March 6 — Nonnative Korean missionaries return home; Seattle Washington Temple first in U.S. to close as Washington reports highest state death toll to date

March 11 — WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic

March 11 — First Presidency announces public will not be admitted to the Conference Center for April general conference; missionaries scheduled to enter MTCs in Provo, Utah, or Preston, England, to be trained remotely; stake and leadership conferences, other large gatherings to be postponed in affected areas; large gatherings suspended on Church-owned college campuses; Asunción Paraguay Temple first in Latin America to close after country suspends large-scale public events

Kimber Young teaches training missionaries Mandarin Chinese via video conferencing at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 10 missionary training centers.
Kimber Young teaches training missionaries Mandarin Chinese via video conferencing at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. In an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19, missionaries are being trained by remote video conference rather than travel to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 10 missionary training centers. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

March 12 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announces Utah will restrict gatherings of more than 100 people

March 12 — First Presidency suspends Church gatherings worldwide; senior missionaries, missionaries with health conditions to return home from 22 European missions; temple closures total 13

March 13 — U.S. declares national emergency

March 13 — Church temporarily suspends proxy temple work worldwide; Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square cancels concerts and makes changes to broadcasts; RootsTech London postponed until fall 2021; Church closes all public areas in and around Temple Square

March 14 — President Nelson shares message of hope on social media channels

March 15 — Church members worldwide worship at home for the first time

Crisanta Estayo-Padilla's husband shares a scripture with their family as they worship at home on Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the Philippines.
Crisanta Estayo-Padilla’s husband shares a scripture with their family as they worship at home on Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the Philippines. Credit: Courtesy Crisanta Estayo-Padilla

March 16 — Church announces adjustments to missionary work (missionary elders may be released at 21 months, missionaries with health issues may be released, missionary calls will continue); Church releases additional information regarding temple adjustments (limit of 8 guests for living ordinances, distribution centers continue to operate where temples are open); many Church historic sites and more temples close

March 17 — Nonnative missionaries in the Philippines to return home; Deseret Industries Thrift stores close to the public

March 18 — Church announces temples will only accept appointments for living ordinances from those in local temple district, among other adjustments; Church distribution retail stores reduce hours, close doors in 73 locations; Nonnative missionaries in 26 African missions and the Micronesia Guam Mission to return home; Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house and dedication postponed

March 19 — First Presidency announces April general conference to be held from small auditorium with pre-recorded music, only those praying or speaking in attendance

March 20 — First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve say “substantial numbers of missionaries” will return to home countries, service terms adjusted, no MTCs will receive new missionaries and all will be trained online

Missionaries are on board a flight during a pandemic-prompted departure from their mission, as photographed by Sister Joyce Havens of the Tahiti Papeete Mission. The photo is one she included as a submission to the Church History Department's project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide.
Missionaries are on board a flight during a pandemic-prompted departure from their mission, as photographed by Sister Joyce Havens of the Tahiti Papeete Mission. The photo is one she included as a submission to the Church History Department’s project of documenting missionary experiences during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, which drew 7,000 online entries from missionaries and mission leaders worldwide. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

March 22 — Total of 88 temples closed; Five Church-chartered commercial planes fly more than 1,600 nonnative missionaries in the Philippines back to Salt Lake City; Church releases self-isolation guidelines for missionaries and their families

March 23 — All 10 MTCs close, nonnative missionaries in Mexico, Vietnam and India to return to home countries; Utah Area presidency asks families to not congregate at airports as missionaries return home; Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple, Bountiful Utah Temple first in Utah to close

March 24 — Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021

March 25 — First Presidency announces all temples to close; 111 of 168 temples were closed at time of the announcement

March 26 — President Nelson extends invitation for worldwide fast; First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve announce shortened length of service for missionaries returning to the U.S., Canada

March 29 — Latter-day Saints and others worldwide follow President Nelson’s invitation to fast

March 31 — First Presidency announces options for missionaries to return to original or temporary assignment when conditions allow or delay service

April

April 2 — COVID-19 cases top 1 million people in 171 countries across six continents, death toll at least 51,000

April 4-5 — General conference; President Nelson calls for a second worldwide fast

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participates in the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference at Church headquarters on April 4, 2020.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participates in the Saturday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference at Church headquarters on April 4, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

April 13 — FSY conferences in U.S. and Canada in 2020 postponed

April 14 — First Presidency announces more than 110 COVID-19 relief projects in 57 countries

April 17 — First Presidency releases new administrative principles for the Church; President Nelson expresses gratitude on social media to those who fasted; 

April 24 — Global death toll surpasses 200,000

April 27 — Tabernacle Choir’s 2020 European tour postponed a year

April 30 — New missionary assignments made following April 30 deadline; Church properties for camps and conferences to close, treks and Church pageants canceled for 2020; Church donates $5.5 million to COVID-19 relief efforts across the U.S.; 280 relief projects in 80 countries have been initiated

May

May 6 — President Nelson addresses reintegration of Church worship and activities in video on social media

May 7 — First Presidency announces ‘phased reopening of temples’; 17 temples open for limited living husband-wife sealing ordinances

May 11 — Additional 17 temples to reopen for limited husband-and-wife sealing ordinances

May 19 — First Presidency announces some meetings, activities to resume

May 28 — U.S. death toll surpasses 100,000

June

June 4 — First Presidency announces October general conference to be broadcast but closed again to public

June 17 — Washington D.C. Temple open house, dedication dates postponed

June 23 — ProjectProtect concludes after six weeks with nearly 6 million masks

July

July 10 — Utah Area presidency urges Latter-day Saints in the state to wear masks in public

July 20 — First Presidency announces changes to temple endowment ceremony

July 27 — 12 temples first to enter phase 2 of reopening plan, begin performing all living ordinances 

August

Aug. 21 — Choir leaders announce cancellation of annual Christmas concert featuring the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, Orchestra at Temple Square, and Bells at Temple Square

September

Sept. 1 — Winnipeg Manitoba Temple dedication and open house postponed; FamilySearch announces RootsTech 2021 will be a free, virtual event held Feb. 25-27, 2021

Sept. 11 — First Presidency outlines guidelines for safely increasing Church activity; stake conferences to begin virtually in November; weekly worship can resume immediately

October

Oct. 4-5 — General conference is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater and closed to the public

A woman in Brazil listens to the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, 2020.
A woman in Brazil listens to the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Oct. 6-8 — Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Sister Susan Gong test positive for COVID-19; all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are tested (results come back negative)

Oct. 22 — Church announces annual Christmas concerts on Temple Square will be held virtually, public invited to submit videos

Oct. 30-31 —  ExpoGenealogía, a virtual family history event in Spanish, is hosted in Mexico

November

Nov. 4 — Church starts ‘deliberate, cautious’ process in assigning missionaries beyond home countries

Nov. 5-8 — FamilySearch Gerações, a virtual family history event in Portuguese, is hosted in Brazil

Nov. 7 — First of two Luz de Las Naciones virtual programs this season is streamed online (the other will be Dec. 19)

Nov. 9 — Church announces Giving Machines will not be used this season, but the #LightTheWorld service campaign will move forward

Nov. 9 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert orders statewide mask mandate and halts on casual social gatherings as COVID-19 cases in the state skyrocket

Nov. 12 — Utah Area Presidency issues four temporary adjustments to meetings and activities; the Church announces plans for Temple Square lights and virtual Christmas devotionals and performances

Nov. 20 — President Nelson shares worldwide message on “the healing power of gratitude” and invites all to #GiveThanks

December

Dec. 1 — Christmas on Temple Square kicks off with virtual concert and tour of the lights; the #LightTheWorld daily service initiative begins

Dec. 5 — Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, test positive for COVID-19

Dec. 6 — Annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional is broadcast from the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square and closed to the public

President Russell M. Nelson is seated prior to the start of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020.
President Russell M. Nelson is seated prior to the start of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Dec. 7 — First Presidency announces the first four temples moving to Phase 3, reopening for proxy work

Dec. 14 — U.S. COVID-19 deaths top 300,000 as vaccinations begin

January 2021

Jan. 8 — Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, tested positive for COVID-19 during holiday break, according to a Church statement

Jan. 15 — Global death toll surpasses 2 million

Jan. 15 — A letter from President M. Russell Ballard asks local leaders to look for local youth conference and camp opportunities in 2021; FSY conferences in U.S. and Canada postponed until 2022

Jan. 19 — Senior Church leaders receive COVID-19 vaccines, encourage members to safeguard themselves and others “through immunization”

Jan. 21 — First Presidency announces April 2021 general conference will be conducted virtually, marking the third-straight virtual conference

February

Feb. 4 — Utah Area Presidency updates COVID-19 safety measures and returns to September 2020 guidelines

Feb. 12 — Utah Area Presidency again updates COVID-19 safety measures with focus on Primary children, meetings and activities

Feb. 19 — Jerold Ottley, longtime Tabernacle Choir director, dies at age 86 from COVID-19-related illness

Feb. 22 — Church donates personal protective equipment, members sew masks to fight COVID-19 in Botswana

Feb. 25-27 — All-virtual RootsTech Connect draws more than 1.1 million participants from 242 countries and territories

Keynote speakers from all over the world participated in RootsTech Connect in February 2021.
Keynote speakers from all over the world participated in RootsTech Connect in February 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Feb. 26 — Latter-day Saint Charities announces $20 million donation to support UNICEF’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts

March

March 2 — Elder Soares and other Church leaders speak in special devotional for Native Americans, many of whom have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19

March 5 — Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square Heritage Tour postponed until 2022

March 9 — Church pageants canceled for 2021, with Hill Cumorah finale to be 2019 rebroadcast